WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE LOUISIANA
Constitution distributes the powers of government
of the State of Louisiana into three separate branches
-- legislative, executive and judicial. Except as
provided by the Constitution, no branch of government
can exercise the power of another branch of government.
This principle is commonly referred to as the constitutional
"separation of powers."
power of the state, which is the power to interpret
the Constitution and the laws of this state, is vested
in the Judicial Branch of Government, made up of a
supreme court, courts of appeal, district courts and
other courts authorized by the Constitution. The Supreme
Court is Louisiana's highest court and is domiciled
in the City of New Orleans.
HOW MANY OTHER COURTS ARE
THERE IN LOUISIANA?
In the Louisiana
court structure there are 5 courts of appeal, 43 district
courts, 5 family or juvenile courts, 49 city courts
and 3 parish courts.
Along with most other states, Louisiana
has established the intermediate courts of appeal
between the district courts and the supreme court.
These courts guarantee the right to have almost any
trial court decision reviewed by a higher court. Their
appellate jurisdiction extends to virtually to all
civil and criminal cases triable by a jury, except
for those few case which are directly appealable to
the Supreme Court.
The trial court
of general jurisdiction in Louisiana is the district
court. District courts generally have authority to
handle all civil and criminal cases. Civil cases involve
actions to enforce, correct or protect private rights.
In general civil cases include all types of actions
other than criminal proceedings. In a criminal proceeding
a person is charged with a crime and brought to trial
and either found guilty or not guilty. The purpose
of a criminal case is to punish the person who violates
courts have exclusive jurisdiction over delinquency
cases involving persons under 17 years of age, with
the exception of some felony offenses for which 15
or 16 year olds can be bound over to the district
courts. Juvenile courts also handle all adoption proceedings
of children under the age of 17. Similarly, family
courts have jurisdiction over all family matters ranging
from delinquency proceedings to divorce and child
The city courts
are courts of record. This means that their decisions
are reviewed on appeal on the record, as opposed to
being tried anew in a higher court. City courts generally
exercise concurrent jurisdiction with the district
court in civil cases where the amount in controversy
does not exceed $15,000. In criminal matters, they
generally have jurisdiction over ordinance violations
and misdemeanor violations of state law. City judges
also handle a large number of traffic cases.
3 parish courts are distinguishable from city courts
only in that they are always staffed by full-time
judges and their jurisdiction is a bit broader. Parish
courts exercise jurisdiction in civil cases worth
up to $10,000 and criminal cases punishable by fines
of $1,000 or less, or imprisonment of six months or
less. Cases are appealable from the parish courts
directly to the courts of appeal.
A total of 380 judges preside over
these Louisiana courts.
HOW MANY JUSTICES ARE ON THE
Constitution of 1974, the Louisiana Supreme Court
is composed of seven justices elected from districts
throughout Louisiana. In the year 2000, Supreme
Court districts were reapportioned into seven new
districts, with one justice elected from each of the
The justices of the Louisiana Supreme
Court serve 10 year terms of office. The senior justice
in point of service is the Chief Justice, who is the
chief administrative officer of the judicial system.
ARE THE SUPREME COURT JUSTICES?
justices of the Louisiana Supreme Court are:
Bernette Joshua Johnson - Seventh District
Justice Greg G. Guidry - First District
Jeffrey P. Victory - Second District
Jeannette Theriot Knoll - Third District
Justice Marcus R. Clark - Fourth District
Justice Jefferson D. Hughes, III - Fifth District
John L. Weimer - Sixth District
DOES SOMEONE BECOME A LOUISIANA SUPREME COURT
Louisiana are chosen by election. As of January 1, 2008, to serve as a justice of the supreme court or a judge on a state court of appeal, a person must have been admitted to practice law in Louisiana for 10 years and been domiciled in the respective district, circuit or parish for one year preceding election. Persons wanting to serve as a judge on a district court, family court, parish court or court having solely juvenile jurisdiction shall have been domiciled in the respective district, circuit or parish for one year preceding election and have been admitted to practice law in Louisiana for eight years.
Judges of city courts shall be licensed to practice law in the State of Louisiana for at least five years previous to their election, and qualified resident electors of the territorial jurisdiction of the court for at least two years prior to their election.
KINDS OF CASES GET TO THE LOUISIANA SUPREME COURT?
"Jurisdiction" is the legal term given to the power and authority
of a court to hear and decide certain judicial cases.
Pursuant to the Louisiana Constitution, the Louisiana
Supreme Court has several types of jurisdiction:
Court has exclusive original jurisdiction in cases
involving disciplinary actions against lawyers and
judges. Exclusive original jurisdiction means "jurisdiction
in the first instance;" these cases cannot be
heard by any other state court.
Court has appellate jurisdiction in cases in which
a law or ordinance has been declared unconstitutional
and in capital cases where the death penalty has been
imposed. These cases originate at the trial court
level, but bypass review by the intermediate courts
of appeal in order to be heard directly by the Supreme
The Supreme Court has supervisory
jurisdiction over all courts. Cases from these courts
reach the Supreme Court after they have already been
heard by a lower court. The Supreme Court; however,
does not automatically hear these cases. A party must
first convince the Court in a special application
that their case merits high court review because an
error occurred in the opinion, judgment or ruling
of the lower court. This procedure is known as "applying
DOES THE SUPREME COURT DECIDE WHICH CASES TO HEAR?
As stated earlier,
the Louisiana Supreme Court must hear all cases involving
disciplinary actions against lawyers and judges, all
cases in which a law or ordinance has been declared
unconstitutional, and all capital cases where the
death penalty has been imposed.
All other cases,
and these are those involving litigants who are not
satisfied with the outcome of their cases in a lower
court, are not heard unless the Supreme Court grants
an application for writs to review the case. A majority
of the justices must agree to hear the case.
not to grant writs rests within the sound discretion
of the Supreme Court; however, one or more of the
following five reasons are usually present if the
Court decides to hear a case:
DECISIONS: This means that the decision of the lower
court conflicts with the decision of a court of appeal,
a decision of the Louisiana Supreme Court or a decision
of the United States Supreme Court on the same legal
UNRESOLVED ISSUES OF LAW: This means that the decision
of the lower court involves a significant legal issue
which should be decided by the Louisiana Supreme Court.
OR MODIFICATION OF A CONTROLLING PRECEDENT: This means
that the decision of the lower court is based on a
prior ruling of the Louisiana Supreme Court which
should be overruled or substantially modified.
INTERPRETATION OF A CONSTITUTION OR LAW: This means
that the decision of the lower court erroneously interprets
or applies the United States or Louisiana constitution
or a state or federal law, and the decision will cause
material injustice or significantly affect the public
5. GROSS DEPARTURE FROM PROPER JUDICIAL
PROCEEDINGS: This means that the decision of the lower
court has so far departed from proper judicial proceedings
or so abused its powers as to call for an exercise
of the Louisiana Supreme Court's supervisory authority.
THE SUPREME COURT DECIDES TO HEAR A CASE, WHAT
If a majority
of the justices agree to grant writs, that is, agrees
to review a case, the case is set on the Supreme Court's
docket for full briefing and argument before the Court.
The full record of the case is moved from the lower
court and lodged with the clerk of court for the Louisiana
Supreme Court. It is important to note that the Supreme
Court's review is limited to the testimony and exhibits
contained in the lower court record. No new evidence
can be introduced in the Louisiana Supreme Court.
There is no jury.
Before the case is heard by the Supreme
Court, one justice is assigned the duty of writing
the opinion of the Court. The opinion is not written,
however, until after the case has been argued before
CAN ARGUE BEFORE THE LOUISIANA SUPREME COURT?
usual case, attorneys represent their clients in cases
before the Louisiana Supreme Court. The attorneys
for the clients on each side of the case are given
a specific amount of time to state their reasons why
the Supreme Court should or should not decide the
case a certain way. Only the attorneys speak before
the seven Supreme Court justices. There are no witnesses.
IS A "FRIEND OF THE COURT?"
the attorneys representing the parties are usually
the only persons who file written briefs and present
arguments in that case before the Louisiana Supreme
Court, the Court will sometimes allow a person not
a party to the case an opportunity to also file a
brief with the Court and present arguments at the
hearing. These parties are called "amicus curiae,"
which means a "friend of the court." An
amicus curiae privilege is granted only if:
1. the party
making the request has an interest in another case
having a similar question as that before the Louisiana
2. the party
making the request has knowledge of a fact or law
that might otherwise escape the Court's attention;
3. the party making the request has
a substantial, legitimate interest that will likely
be affected by the outcome of the case which will
not be adequately protected by those already a party
to the case.
LONG CAN A PERSON ARGUE BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT?
In lawyer discipline
cases, each side is given 20 minutes for oral argument.
In all criminal cases, except a death penalty case,
each side is given 20 minutes for oral argument. In
a death penalty case, each side is given 40 minutes
for oral argument. In civil cases and in judge discipline
cases, each side is given 30 minutes for oral argument.
side must complete their presentation to the Court
within the time limitations, an attorney can be interrupted
by a question of any justice at any time during his
or her remarks, with no additional time given.
CASES 20 MINUTES PER SIDE
20 MINUTES PER SIDE
CASES 40 MINUTES PER SIDE
CASES 30 MINUTES PER SIDE
CIVIL CASES 30 MINUTES PER SIDE
HAPPENS AFTER ORAL ARGUMENTS?
oral arguments, the justice assigned to write the
Court's decision in the case prepares a proposed written
opinion and circulates it to the other six justices
for their review and approval. If this opinion gets
the approval of a majority of the justices, the opinion
is considered as having been "passed" and
becomes the official decision of the Louisiana Supreme
Court. If, however, the proposed opinion does not
get a majority vote of the justices, the opinion is
reassigned to one of the other justices who must then
write another proposed opinion. This process continues
until such time as a majority of the justices will
sign on, resulting in the official decision of the
Louisiana Supreme Court. A decision is usually rendered
by the Supreme Court approximately six weeks after
CAN I FIND LOUISIANA SUPREME COURT DECISIONS?
Court decisions are a matter of public record and
are posted on the Supreme Court's Internet web site.
These decisions are also published in print and electronic
format and can be found in any law library.
MANY CASES DOES THE SUPREME COURT HANDLE EACH
In 2009, 2,780 cases were filed,
down from 3,014 cases in 2008. The
Court disposed of 2,801 cases in
2009, a minimal decrease of 33 less
dispositions than in 2008. Due to the
decreased number of filings, however,
the net clearance rate for the year was
These numbers show that only a small
fraction of the work of the Louisiana Supreme Court
is reflected in its official opinions. Most of the
Court's time is taken up with the high volume of questions
put to the Court in the form of writ applications
and direct appeals. These cases are handled in weekly
conferences while the Court is in session.
IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE U.S. SUPREME COURT
AND THE LOUISIANA SUPREME COURT?
Supreme Court is a federal court while the Louisiana
Supreme Court is a state court. The U.S. Supreme Court
is the highest court of appeal in our country. It
has the final word on all laws and on the Constitution
itself. A chief justice and eight associate justices,
all appointed by the president, serve on the U.S. Supreme
ANYONE FROM LOUISIANA EVER SERVED ON THE U.S.
Yes. Edward Douglass White,
a former Louisiana Supreme Court justice, served on
the U.S. Supreme Court for 27 years between 1894-1921.
In 1910, at the age of 65, White was appointed chief
justice of the Supreme Court by President William